Sunday, August 27, 2006

Right Hand, Left Hand, Compare Notes

The Associated Press reported today, August 27, that the Army Corps of Engineers has some disturbing news: trouble for New Orleans if a hurricane hits right now.
Despite aggressive efforts to repair the New Orleans levee system following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, it isn’t clear yet whether it could withstand a hurricane with heavy storm surge this year, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers conceded Saturday.
The Associated Press also reported today, August 27, that federal emergency officials have some cheering news: the levees are just fine.
Federal emergency officials claim the New Orleans levee system is ready for another major hurricane, despite the less-optimistic views of other political leaders and engineers. "I think we're in good shape," Don Powell, the Bush administration's coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding, said Sunday. "There's no question in my mind, we're ready."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who do you believe, engineers or politicians?? Honestly, I think it's the same old science versus religion debate, for which substitute "physics" and "the state".

9:12 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Who do you believe, engineers or politicians??

Engineers, obviously...(speaking as one who has a P.E. after their name)

In seriousness, the problem is probably definitional. If you get another Katrina, which by all accounts exceeded the design parameters, it's probably no better than it was prior to Katrina. If you get a lesser storm, it's probably no worse than prior. So, one could conceivably say.."We're in great shape" for Ernesto, which, putting aside that it won't hit anyway, is only a Cat II at the outside. You could also say "We're hosed", by someone who is looking at another Katrina.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I believe the engineers, of course. But I'm disappointed that the politicians didn't have the minimal intelligence to at least wait 24 hours before making a statement completely contradicting the engineers.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Whoa, Moose. You and I posted at the same time. But the Feds aren't talking about Ernesto; the quote specifically refers to "another major hurricane."

9:27 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

If it were anywhere else the enviro-whackos would be (rightfully this time) ranting about the stupidity of building on wetlands that are below river level.

Let nature reclaim its swamp.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Whoa, Moose. You and I posted at the same time.

Spooky...ain't it?

"another major hurricane."

Ok, what's major? That's an ambiguous statement. If they said "another Cat III", they'd probably be right. "Another Cat IV" and they'd be full of it.

Politically, the COE is trying to cover its ass in terms of liability. What people don't want to accept is that it's a cost/benefit ratio, where a "cost" is assigned to each human life. The incremental cost of improving protection is weighed against the loss of life avoided. On a personal level, people object to the quantification of loss of life, except when it gets personal like their own auto insurance, where the same thing happens.

The shame of it all is that if people weren't so complacent, and didn't try to blame others for their complacency, it wouldn't have been near the problem. Worse, if they didn't do stupid things like build below sea level in an area prone to power, sorry, I digress, that would require too much general intelligence.

My personal solution to it would be to get a can of spray paint, go to the high water mark on the wall, measure up four feet, and paint a line. Then, import fill dirt to that level, and no more problem.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Moose, if I were prone to conspiracy theories, I'd swear all those "let's rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward just as it was before" people are actually Klansmen in blackface makeup, putting forth their insidious plan code-named "Operation let the poor darkies drown."

1:51 PM  
Anonymous a Moose said...

people are actually Klansmen in blackface makeup,

"Chocolate-face" makeup, we have to be Nagin correct here.

One of my professors in grad school: "The sometimes nice and sometimes not so nice thing about civil engineering is that if you screw it up, Mother Nature will fix it for you eventually." My personal opinion is that that whole area, and the idea to build there, was someone screwing up.

My professional opinion is that I haven't seen sufficient data to form one. Then again, I have no reason and am highly disinclined to spend that time without a reason.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course I meant that you would believe the engineers! I thought it was so self-evident that I could just make the rhetorical quip about it. Obviously I think that you can't legislate physics... nor can you accurately predict the actions of politicians ;)

8:02 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

My personal opinion is that that whole area, and the idea to build there, was someone screwing up.

To be fair, it's sort of a path-dependence problem. The French didn't really want a city there, but they needed to build close to the river mouth to be able to fight off the English. They built on the best possible chunk of land;and you'll note that the oldest parts of the city—uptown, downtown, the French Quarter—didn't flood. As the city grew, they kept needing more space, and each time they expanded into the best available space. By the time we built the Ninth Ward, it was kind of screwed and there wasn't anywhere better to put it.

At the same time, I think we should take the opportunity to rethink things and avoid some of the path-dependence; people certainly shouldn't be encouaraged specifically to rebuild there. I tried to convince my parents of this, but they're rebuilding anyway.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

By the time we built the Ninth Ward, it was kind of screwed and there wasn't anywhere better to put it.

There is horizontal control and vertical control in survey/construction. In the horizontal, ok, you didn't have a place to put it. In the vertical, all it takes is sufficient fill material.

12:26 AM  

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